Forest Preserve’s Four Rivers site hosts Feb. 3 wedding open house

When Bailey Testerman was first scouting out wedding venues, the bride-to-be said she was looking for a site that was as “green” as possible.

“The health of our planet is incredibly important to me …,” she said. “I wanted to reduce the environmental impact of our wedding as much as possible. Choosing an environmentally conscious venue was a way to live out my values while wedding planning.”

Testerman and her fiancé, Kole El-Talabani, of Kankakee chose the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon because of the venue’s eco-friendly vibe, beautiful setting and all-inclusive wedding space. They were married Aug. 12 in an “eclectic” and “whimsical” celebration that incorporated many items from thrift shops.

Nestled in McKinley Woods preserve, the Forest Preserve District’s Four Rivers is a popular wedding venue, but there are still some couples who aren’t aware it exists, said Mary Thomas, the site’s reservation manager.

That’s why the Forest Preserve District will host a Four Rivers Wedding Open House from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, at Four Rivers to help more couples discover the venue. Registration for the open house is encouraged. Sign up on the Event Calendar at ReconnectWithNature.org.

The open house will highlight the Illinois River Grand Hall, which can seat up to 150 people, an outdoor patio, a picnic shelter suitable for outdoor ceremonies, and wedding suite, all in a beautiful setting in the woods near where the DuPage, Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers meet to form the Illinois River. The building’s unique interior also has exhibit space filled with a 2,000-gallon river fish aquarium, a mussel display and an oversized bird feeder/birdbath viewing area.

Five approved Four Rivers’ caterers will be at the open house: Angeli’s Catering, Chic Chef Catering, My Chef Catering, Polonia Catering and Uncle Bubs “Award Winning BBQ.” Also on hand will be an officiant who can guide couples on ceremony logistics and a DJ who can talk about the importance of having someone overseeing speeches and dances. Goodie bags will be distributed to couples who show up for the open house.

The Grand Hall will be decorated to give couples ideas for their nuptials, information will be available on how tables can be arranged on the big day and there will be tips on planning an eco-friendly celebration, which is encouraged but not required.

The venue, which recently received the 2024 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Award, is popular because it includes ceremony, reception and wedding suite space; the Grand Hall is a blank slate for decorating; and the site is surrounded by nature, which makes for ideal photos.

”You can go anywhere and get a beautiful picture,” said Kylee Beckwith, the site’s guest services associate. “There are different views for every season and they’re so gorgeous.”

If you can’t attend the open house on Feb. 3, but want to learn more about scheduling a wedding or event at Four Rivers, the Forest Preserve’s website lists facility rental information and wedding FAQs at ReconnectWithNature.og.